This coming Monday, 17 August 2020, will be the celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the Indonesian Declaration of Independence. Unfortunately because of Covid restrictions we will not be able to celebrate appropriately.
Timing is everything. After the Japanese surrender on August 15, 1945 and the resulting power vacuam, now is the time to declare Indonesian independence. However Soekarno and Hatta as the leaders of the independence movement were hesitant and needed confirmation of the Japanese surrender. On August 16, Soekarno and Hatta are kidnapped? by the younger revolutionaries and taken to the village of Rengasdengklok, where they are pressured to declare independence in Jakarta on the following day. After reaching an agreement, Soekarno and Hatta return to Jakarta that evening to finalise the text.
It was difficult to balance the interests of the Japanese military, the interests of Soekarno and Hatta, and those of the younger revolutionaries. For this reason the finally agreed declaration was kept as simple as possible
The Declaration of Independence is formally announced by Soekarno and Hatta at 10am on the morning of 17 August 1945. Soekarno stated in his opening speech:
Saudara- suadara sekalian
Saya telah minta saudara-saudara hadir disini, untuk menyaksikan satu peristiwa mahapenting dalam sejarah kita.
Berpuluh- puluhan tahun kita bangsa Indonesia telah berjoang untuk kemerdekaan tanah air kita – bahkan telah berates- ratus tahun!
Gelombang aksi kita untuk mencapai kemerdekaan kita itu ada naiknya, dan ada turunnya, tetapi jiwa kita tetap menuju ke arah cita-cita.
Juga didalam zaman Jepang, usaha kita untuk mencapai kemerdekaan nasional tidak berhenti-berhentinya . Didalam zaman Jepang ini tampaknya, bahwa kita menyandarkan diri kepada mereka. Tetapi hak ekatnya, tetapi kita menyusun tenaga sendiri, tetapi kita percaya pada kekuatan kami sendiri.
Sekarang tibalah saatnya kita benar-benar mengambil sikap nasib bangsa, dan nasib tanah air kita, didalam tangan kita sendiri. Hanya bangsa yang berani untuk mengambil nasib dalam tangan sendiri akan dapat berdiri dengan kuatnya.
Maka kami tadi malam telah mengadakan musyawarat dengan pemuka-pemuka rakyat Indonesia dari seluruh Indonesia. Permusyawaratan itu seIa sekata berpendapat bahwa sekaranglah datang saatnya untuk MENYATAKAN KEMERDEKAAN KITA!
Brothers and Sister All! I have asked you to be in attendance here in order to witness an event in our history of the utmost importance. For decades we, the people of Indonesia, have struggled for the freedom of our country – even for hundreds of years! There have been waves in our actions to achieve independence which rose, and there have been those that fell, but our spirit still was set in the direction of our ideals. Also during the Japanese period our efforts to achieve national independence never ceased. In this Japanese period it merely appeared that we lent on them. But fundamentally, we still continued to build up our own powers, we still believed in our own strengths. Now has come the moment when we truly take the fate of our actions and the fate of our country into our own hands. Only a nation bold enough to take its fate into its own hands will be able to stand in strength. Therefore last night we had deliberations with prominent Indonesians from all over Indonesia. That deliberative gathering was unanimously of the opinion that NOW has come the time to declare our independence. Brother and Sisters, we hearby declare the solidarity of that determination. Listen to our Proclamation.
Kami, bangsa Indonesia, dengan ini menyatakan kemerdekaan Indonesia.
Hal-hal jang menenai pemindahan kekoeasaan d.l.l., diselenggarakan dengan tjara saksama dan dalam tempo jang sesingkat-singkatnja.
Djakarta, hari 17 boelan 8, tahoen 45
Atas nama bangsa Indonesia
WE THE PEOPLE OF INDONESIA HEREBY DECLARE THE INDEPENDENCE OF INDONESIA. MATTERS WHICH CONCERN THE TRANSFER OF POWER AND OTHER THINGS WILL BE EXECUTED BY CAREFUL MEANS AND IN THE SHORTEST POSSIBLE TIME. DJAKARTA 17 AUGUST 1945. IN THE NAME OF THE INDONESIAN PEOPLE. SOEKARNO – HATTA
Following which he announced:
Demikianlah saudara-saudara kita sekarang telah merdeka! Tidak ada suatu ikatan lagi yang mengikuti tanah air kita dan bangsa kita! Mulai saat ini kita menyusun negara kita! Negara merdeka! Negara Republik Indonesia! Merdeka kekal abadi! Insya Allah Tuhan memberkati kemerdekaan kita ini.
So it is, Brothers and Sisters! We are now already free! There is not another single tie binding our country and our people! As from this moment we build our state. A free state, the State of the Republic of Indonesia – ever more and eternally independent. Allah willing, God blesses and makes safe this independence of ours!
The flag was hand sewn by Soekarno’s wife Fatmawati. After the raising of the Indonesian flag the group sing the Indonesian National Anthem ‘Indonesia Raya’.
The Pemuda Youth Group had organised a mass rally in Merdeka Square to celebrate independence on 19 September 1945. The Japanese military banned the gathering because of their fear that it would lead to a mass riot and to confrontation between the Indonesians and the Japanese military, who had their guns trained on the Square.
Soekarno is stopped by the Japanese military from attending the mass rally. Until a compromise is reached whereby he agrees to give a short speech, which he later describes as his ‘State of the Union Adress’ and then tells the enthusiastic crowd to peacefully disperse.
The Preparatory Committee for Indonesian Independence (PPKI) had met in June and July to prepare a constitution for the proposed Independent Republic of Indonesia. This was announced on the 18 August 1945 and is better known as the 1945 Constitution.
On August 29 the Central Indonesian National Committee (KNIP) was established with 137 members and its first plenary session was held on 16 October 1945
Photographs sourced from various Indonesian national archives.
Thanks to Anthony Liem for providing the text of Soekarno’s speech.
Thanks to Toni Pollard for providing the image of the handwritten draft document